Andrew Fielding-USA TODAY Sports
Willis could offer depth at DE.
There are a couple of interesting players on the second unit of the defensive front.
At end, expect Ellis McCarthy, former UNC transfer Brandon Willis and freshman Jeremy Castro to see time.
McCarthy was the 5-star all-everything recruit from a year ago. Due to a knee issue in the spring, he was never fully conditioned from a stamina standpoint. He did see limited time this year, but it was apparent that he needs to lose weight in order to be effective. McCarthy underwent a minor knee procedure after the season ended, but he should be fine to go when spring ball begins.
A healthy McCarthy would be a boon for UCLA. He's innately the most talented member of the reserves by a long margin and has the ability to play both at end and at nose guard.
Willis was slated to be the starting nose guard before the 2012 season began, but he never could maintain the requisite weight needed to play the position, and as a result, he didn't see too much time. He's a talented guy, but lacks experience.
A big wild card in the equation is freshman Jeremy Castro. Castro had academic problems, which prevented him from joining the team until recently. Although technically a member of the 2012 recruiting class, he'll enroll in January and participate in spring ball.
Based on his reputation from high school, he's an animal off of the edge and has the ability to play both as an outside backer and as a defensive end. Another very talented kid, his ability to play in 2013 will likely hinge on his conditioning, and on his ability to comprehend the defense.
Nate Iese might be another option at defensive end as well. He's got tremendous athleticism and overall speed. However, he could be transitioning full time to the offensive side of the ball as a tight end.
Both Brandon Tuliaupupu and Kenneth Carter will vie to be the backup to Epenesa. Tuliaupupu is a mountain of a man at 6'1", 315 pounds, while Carter is a highly regarded 4-star recruit.
*UCLA is in a battle for two very good defensive line prospects. If they are able to land either of the recruits, both could figure heavily into the mix.